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Attitude to work a major cause of poverty in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | April 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Ben Henry, Contributor

ANDREW HOLNESS' dream for Jamaica becoming the Singapore of the Western Hemisphere is a pipe dream. He needs to know that one of the major factors behind Singapore's success is the hard work of its people. Sadly, a lot of Jamaicans do not believe that simple, good, old-fashioned hard work can be the basis of success.

To many Jamaicans, 'hard work' seems to imply there is something distasteful about human effort applied over an extended time to an activity for which there is compensation rendered. Just notice Jamaicans as they go about preparing for a party or a day out at the beach. They work hard at it ... with a meticulousness that amazes the onlooker. If they could just extend the same effort to the work that enables them to pay the bills and send their kids to school, then this country would become the Singapore of the Western Hemisphere.

But what do most of them do when they go to work? They work only four hours a day, instead of eight, but at the end of the week, they expect pay for 40 hours. To me, that smacks of dishonesty.

Perhaps we should change words. Let's call our time planning for a party or an outing to the beach 'hard work', and label the time on the job as 'recreation' or 'hobby' and see if we get a different emotional response from these Jamaicans.

success requires hard work

Thomas Edison tried futilely for years to convince the world that his inventions were not the result of any great genius he had. "Genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration," was the way he explained it. "I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my intentions come by accident; they came by hard work."

Michelangelo, the great artist, disputed the wonder of his own talent by saying, "If people knew how hard I have to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem wonderful at all."

So the best kept secret of success seems to be that success, strangely enough, is preceded by hard work. Jamaicans need to wake up to this fact.

The Life Extension Institute found that people starting earlier and working longer are more relaxed and less tense than those who work fewer hours. Medical experts say the reason people become tired is not because they do too much, but rather because they do too little.

Dr James Montague said he never knew a person who suffered from overwork. There were many, however, who suffered from too much ambition and not enough action. Dr Charles Mayo found much the same thing: "I have never known a person who died from overwork, but there were many who died from doubt," he said.

For some strange reason, workers who do more than they have to do feel better. No one seems to know why. But it is a fact that on those days that we get an early start and fill our day with busy activity, we end up feeling good about it. Those workers who spend half the day drinking coffee and minding other people's business instead of doing their work leave feeling tired. No wonder they say their work is hard!

Jamaicans need to wake up to the fact that in order for us to get out of this poverty quagmire in which we find ourselves, we need to work when we go to work.

But this is easier said than done. How do we convince the lazy among us to embrace the idea that it is the reward of work that keeps body and soul together? How do we convince them that work should be their most important hobby, and not partying? How do we transfer some of that passion for partying to the workplace and put work at the top of all the other hobbies?

When people stop working for their organisation and begin to work for themselves, they will begin to love work. Work will no longer be work, but fun. And those long hours will no longer be long. You'll begin to work 18 hours a day, five or six days a week, without any sweat. Work has become a hobby.

When you work for yourself, even if your supervisor creates moments of misery for you at the workplace, you are still going to get out of bed every morning, come to work on time, and do the work right first time every time. The supervisor's negative behaviour towards you will not affect your performance. You will always do what you have always done - exceed expectations. Why? Because you are a professional - and professionals don't let themselves down. When people call your name or when they see your name, the first thing that comes to mind is, "That's a professional."

Ben Henry, is Managing Director of Customer Service Academy of Jamaica. Send comments to or